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Computer Q&A: Search Engines Act to Thwart Online Gambling
A month ago, betting on the NCAA basketball tournament was top of
mind for many of us as we participated in pools by wagering on who was
going to win their brackets. Next month, the table turns as online
gambling starts to disappear in the United States. Not that online
gambling really happened here.
For the most part, it only looked like it was happening here. Most of
the wagering was done using offshore gambling Web sites.
Sure, you could place a bet from the comfort of your own home or
office. But you’d be placing your wager with a foreign entity operated
in some strategic locale, such as Costa Rica, where gambling is legal.
Those offshore locations were selected specifically because the
operators would be able to offer their gambling services without the
fear of getting busted.
All they’d need to do is make sure that their customers — especially
those big spenders in the United States — could find them. That’s
simple. All they needed to do was advertise.
Federal prosecutors are starting to come down hard on illegal
gambling, with offshore betting emporiums being one of their key
Since they couldn’t go after the offshore operations directly,
prosecutors started threatening to go after companies that aid and abet
those offshore bookies. That could mean anybody who accepts advertising
from offshore betting parlors, including the search engines.
Seemingly provoked, the major search engine companies have announced
that they will stop running ads for offshore, online casinos. Without
Google, Yahoo and Lycos to run the ads, business is likely to be slow
for the offshore emporiums.
I don’t have anything against gambling in general, as long as the
gambler has the sense to keep his wagers within his limits. It’s one of
those so-called victimless crimes. But I applaud the search engines —
and any other company that similarly decides to decline the ads of these
offshore scofflaws. According to the General Accounting Office, there
are more than 1,800 Internet gambling operations, almost all of them
outside the United States.
Since many of them treat the United States as their primary market,
the only reason most of these guys go offshore is because they can’t
operate legally here. Yet they market their wares here as if it were
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